Lymphatic Drainage: Why Improving Posture and Movement is Key

Lymphatic Drainage: Why Improving Posture and Movement is Key

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, nodes, and organs that play a crucial role in the circulatory and immune systems of the human body, supporting overall health by:

  • Maintaining the body’s fluid balance
  • Absorbing fats from the digestive tract
  • Fighting disease and infections
  • Facilitating the removal of waste products
  • Filtering out toxins

In a well-functioning body, the lymphatic system collects lymph (fluid leaked from cells and tissues) and returns it to your bloodstream via lymph vessels and nodes. However, if this process becomes compromised, the probabilities increase that any of the above functions can go awry. This can lead to various issues such as persistent swelling in various parts of the body (most commonly arms, legs, face, neck, abdomen, groin, breasts, or joints), lowered immune response, or various other lymphatic diseases and disorders. 

If you’re experiencing any of the above issues, or if you’re someone wanting to proactively understand how to support lymph flow for your overall well-being, you’ve likely been encouraged to try out lymphatic drainage techniques aimed to get the lymph flowing back into the bloodstream.

Breathe deeply! Exercise! Hydrate! Try dry brushing skin and get lymphatic drainage massages! 

Yes, of course, we know we need to breathe, exercise, and adequately hydrate. And perhaps lymphatic drainage massages or dry brushing skin may be temporarily useful. But how many of these generalized recommendations help people get to the root of why there is an issue with the lymphatic system in the first place? 

This article aims to get you thinking about lymphatic drainage by looking at the function and design of the body as a whole. By improving your posture and movement, your own body will be better equipped to propel lymph through the body versus getting stuck in a loop of surface level and over-simplified approaches. Want to know how? Let's take a deeper look …


A brief outline of the flow of lymph through the body is as follows: 

  1. Lymphatic drainage: leaked fluid from cells and tissues (called lymph), containing various substances including waste products and toxins, are collected and transported to lymphatic vessels

  2. Lymph nodes: lymph nodes act as filters to process the fluid. Immune cells within the lymph nodes capture foreign particles, pathogens, and toxins in the lymph. They work to cleanse, break down, and encapsulate harmful substances for removal from the body.

  3. Return to Bloodstream: The filtered lymph then re-enters the bloodstream through lymphatic ducts near the collar bones. This lymph mixes with venous blood to circulate within the bloodstream. Toxins present in the lymph now become part of the overall circulation of blood.

  4. Elimination: Toxins in the bloodstream can now be further processed by the liver (which metabolizes and neutralizes them) and kidneys (filtering the waste products) to then be excreted as urine. 


It’s important to note that unlike blood flow, lymph is not propelled by a central pump (the heart) like in the circulatory system. Rather, the movement of lymph relies on other mechanisms, some of the primary ones including:

  • Muscle contractions: the contraction and relaxation occurring during activity helps squeeze the lymphatic vessels to propel the lymph onward similar to squeezing toothpaste out of a tube.
  • Respiratory movements: pressure changes in the chest that occur during inhalation and exhalation move lymph through the vessels in the thoracic region (middle section of the spine)
  • Additional mechanisms such as: smooth muscles contractions, valves in lymphatic vessels (preventing backward flow of lymph), and pulsation of nearby arteries



Lymphatic manual massage, self massage, and dry brushing skin are different techniques aimed at promoting lymphatic circulation and overall well-being. Here’s a brief overview of some of the differences:

  • Lymphatic drainage massages: typically performed by a trained therapist who uses gentle, rhythmic strokes to stimulate the flow of lymph fluid through the lymphatic vessels. The aim is to reduce swelling, support the immune system, and drain excess fluid. 
  • Self massage: using hands or specific tools to perform massage techniques on oneself. Similar to lymphatic massage this involves gentle and rhythmic strokes directed towards the lymph nodes.
  • Dry brushing skin: this involves using a natural-bristle brush to massage the skin in circular motions, typically done in the direction of lymph flow starting from the extremities and moving toward the heart. It is believed to help stimulate the lymphatic system, promote blood circulation, and exfoliate the skin. 



While many people find these practices relaxing and perhaps a useful tool for a period of time, they have their limitations. 

Think about it like this, what do you do if you have a sore throat? Maybe you aim to get more rest, take an Epsom salt bath, drink bone broth, gargle with salt water, or perhaps even take an over-the-counter drug to help lessen your symptoms. These could be useful tools to help relieve symptoms in the short term. But what happens if you are chronically getting a sore throat? Are salt baths or bone broth really the panacea or might you need to dig deeper to figure out why you’re recurrently sick? In the case of problems with lymphatic drainage, go ahead and use the skin brush if you want. But it’s not going to fix your problem. Same with massage. We use myo-fascial release, a form of self massage, at Functional Patterns as an initial tool to help address restrictions in the body. I can be really helpful. But we also know that it’s merely a tool to start a longer process of what needs to be addressed. 

So if the above options are only barely grazing the surface and if we know that movement, proper breathing, and muscular contractions are crucial, is simply telling someone to run, lift weights, or breathe deeply the answer?


Humans are designed to move. Every time you move your body the lymph within the vessels is stimulated which speeds up the rate that it enters into the bloodstream, ultimately improving blood circulation. This improves your overall health because better blood circulation means all the cells in your body receive more essential oxygen and nutrients. This is why exercise is considered to be key in supporting lymphatic drainage. 

While this may be the case, just telling someone to exercise is not a smart thing to do without taking into consideration their posture and how well their body moves. For example, one common “exercise” recommended to support lymphatic drainage is rebounding, a practice often done by bouncing on a mini-trampoline. While yes, it may help stimulate lymph flow, it’s a shortsighted approach. You may be further causing stress on your body if you have an unbalanced structure with restrictions in your tissues, causing joint compression every time you land. Here’s what we would instead recommend:

  • Fix your posture: By learning to properly engage your core along with other key muscles along the spine you will open up the pathway to breathe more deeply. We know that breathing deeply helps stimulate lymphatic drainage but it’s not as simple as just telling someone to “take a deep breath” if they have, for example, a compressed rib cage. Start by learning techniques to release restrictions and then create internal leverage to decompress the body so that you have the capacity to breathe with greater ease and so that the fluid within your body has room to move.

  • Learn to walk, run, and throw better: As humans these are the primary motions we are designed to do, with our muscles having developed in relation to this. If muscles are able to engage together it allows us to create a rebound in movement, such as with what happens with the propulsion that occurs when springing off of one foot while running. We don’t need trampolines to do this; Our bodies should be performing this function through every step of our day. If our mechanics allow us to get this rebound, it’s unlikely that we will have issues with lymph flow.  

A great example of this is demonstrated through the running improvements shown by an FP Practitioner below. The photo emphasizes the difference between a lack of fluid propulsion initially in his body to the ripple that later moves through him after having trained his posture and movement mechanics with Functional Patterns. Now that you know what to look for (see arrows), check out the link to watch the video. Even for an untrained eye, the change is quite remarkable.


Results from FP Human Biomechanics Specialist Danny Hung out of FP Taiwan.
[Watch his movement progress here]



Supporting the lymphatic system is crucial in maintaining good health and while there are a myriad of techniques that can help alleviate stuck lymph, such as lymphatic drainage massages or dry brushing skin, these methods are merely scratching the surface of a bigger issue needing to be addressed. By learning to improve your posture and the ability to both relax and contract your muscles through prioritizing how we are designed to move as humans, odds are that lymphatic drainage will no longer be an issue for you. 

Wanting to learn more about why we train the way we do? Check out The Functional Podcast.

Ready to dive in and get working towards developing better posture and movement today? The 10-Week Online Program is a great place to start.
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